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Vancouver doctor disappointed by B.C.'s plan for medical assistance in dying at St. Paul's Hospital

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Last week, the B.C. government announced it would create a separate clinical space for medical assistance in dying (MAiD) at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, but Dr. Jyothi Jayaraman says that it’s not a compromise.

“Compromises require concessions,” she said. “St. Paul’s did not concede anything, it was Minister Adrian Dix and the province that conceded.”

Dr. Jyothi Jayaraman quit her palliative care job earlier this summer, after the hospice she worked at no longer provided MAiD due to its new religious affiliations. She’s now an independent practitioner.

St. Paul’s Hospital is tied to Providence Health, a Catholic health organization that bans MAiD, despite federal legislation allowing the practice.

In June, Health Minister Adrian Dix said he was discussing with St. Paul’s Hospital how it could accommodate MAiD.

Its announcement of a separate space which will not be part of the existing hospital, but on adjacent property and connected to the hospital with a corridor, has been met with criticism.

"It's not about candlelight and kumbaya and holding hands,” said Dr. Jayaraman. “It's that time that you're taking, instead of lying in bed and having your loved ones around you, you're now going to be transported out. Even if it looks like the Shangri-La, that's not the point, you might be sedated because it's been so uncomfortable."

She says the province’s announcement was disappointing, as it won’t stop forced transfers at other hospitals throughout B.C.

Since the start of June, she's had to transfer eight patients to separate health-care facilities where MAiD is permitted.

"I alone have had forced transfers from places other than St. Paul’s, they could be Mount St. Joseph’s, there are some lodges and there is the Rotary Hospice in Richmond."

Forced transfers are something she says are difficult for health-care professionals, knowing the traumatic experience they put patients through during their final moments of life.

“It's not nuns running the hospital or priests, it’s every one of us that works in these places, we don't subscribe to these faiths, and it’s public tax payer dollars going in there, so it's time to stop."

She’s one of many who've joined the Dying with Dignity organization to begin working with a legal team to file a constitutional challenge.

CEO of the organization Helen Long says she hopes to have it filed in the next couple of months.

"When it's a publicly-funded facility, any taxpayer should be able to access the services they need in that hospital regardless of the religious presence behind the hospital,” said Long.

The B.C. government was asked for comment and told CTV News they’d have a response Monday.

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